Miss Q takes the dance floor to the dark side in this week’s recommended mix

Miss Q

Miss Q Photo provided by the artist.

Once, if you told me I’d someday have a “goth phase,” I’d have laughed at you.

For quite a long time, that stuff held no musical interest to me whatsoever. I never cared for the Cure. Bauhaus bored me. Even industrial and darkwave—most of the major stops along the dark-sider train—were things I admired, when I did, at a remove. And I hated Nine Inch Nails. No, I liked color and vigor; I liked rap and rave and rock that didn’t just mope around—harrumph, or more like blah-blah-blah.

As it happens, I now like going out dancing to darkwave—turns out I was just a dumb young snob. (Shocking, right?) But it also helps that my own listening and hearing (different things, one’s active, the other cumulative) have changed over the years. Maybe I didn’t think much of the Goth biggies as a youth because I didn’t like it as rock. But as an older person whose first fealty is to the dance floor, it turns out I like the stuff a lot as dance music—and always have, really. It’s always good to lose a flimsy stance, as I hope the “own the libs” faction making America horrible will learn sooner than later.

One reason I’ve been going to so many darkwave nights has been Miss Q, the DJ alias of Mari Navarro. But it wasn’t a DJ alias at first, she says: “I used to be a graffiti artist in Chicago, and once I picked up DJing in Portland, Oregon, in 2010, it was easy to just use that name.” It’s a good joke of a name, since Navarro’s sets are smoothly mixed—not always the case, which isn’t a criticism, since “darkwave” is more an umbrella term than a strict genre signifier, and its audience doesn’t necessarily want an unwavering tempo.

DJ Miss Q’s Death Wave II (March 6, 2018) lays out the music’s appeal, particularly her brand of it. The set is heavy on vocals, often shouting and anthem-like—see Prayers’ “One 9 One 3,” some 21 minutes into the set: “I’m fucking your girlfriend while she’s painting my nails!” But then she’ll throw in something cooler (or more to the point, tonally colder—“cold” being practically a term of endearment in this company, of course), such as the anthem-like “Deep Well” by Boy Harsher as a change-up (around 13 minutes). She keeps the momentum moving around, without flagging, for a brisk 47 minutes. 

As indicated, Navarro is a Chicagoan by birth. “I lived there most of my life until love led me to Portland, Oregon, in 2009,” she says. Moving west, she says, “I was very active in the Goth scene in Portland and was a resident DJ at the Lovecraft nightclub. I also played at HIVE at the Star Theater, one of the longest running Goth nights in Portland. I also hosted a new wave night in PDX. Since 2016, I find myself in Northeast Minneapolis with my comic book artist and wife Leda Zawacki.”

Navarro hit the ground running in Minneapolis, and she’s now proprietress of the bimonthly “darkwave Goth dance party” Gothess, which runs bimonthly at Honey. (The next two, after this weekend’s, are on June 28 and August 23.)

Though DJing is a more recent endeavor, Navarro’s playing style is rooted in her home city. “I was fortunate to grow up in a city like Chicago that had a vibrant music scene,” she says. “I never took for granted my nightlife experience nor the exposure to so much great music. You really couldn’t get away without hearing Front 242’s ‘Headhunter’ and Pet Shop Boys’ ‘West End Girls’ in the same mix. That juxtaposition is something I carry with me today. I play darker sounds up against something shimmering with synth pop tones. There is so much new music that invokes the sounds of the past that you can’t help but pair it with those familiar sounds.”

With: DJ Miss Q, DJ Mercury, Illuminaté Steele, DJ Heartbreak
Where: Honey
When: 9:30 p.m., Thu., May 24
Tickets: $5; more info here

Are you a Twin Cities dance-music DJ? Michaelangelo Matos wants to hear your latest set. He writes about recent mixes by local DJs every Thursday for City Pages. Tweet to his attention: @matoswk75.